Chapter 6 - Media as Translators

topic posted Fri, December 11, 2009 - 4:24 PM by  Sabbatic Goa...
This was the shortest chapter of the first part in Understanding Media. While continuing to reassert that media are extensions of man, McLuhan suggests that media offers a means of translating experiences into a common communication. But does lead into man becoming more aware of how the media impacts our behaviors? If, as he leads off the chapter, a stutterer loses that quality by speaking in a foreign language, or neurosis is gone when speaking on the telephone are examples of how translations can change our behavior, then it stands to reason that there is a rationalism that is brought back to the individual.

He states that common sense is a form of reunion of the senses. "The "common sense" was for many centuries held to be the peculiar power of translating one kind of one sense into all the senses, and presenting the result continuously as a unified image to the mind. In fact the image of a unified ration among the senses was long held to be the mark of our rationality, and may in the computer age easily become so again. For it is now possible to program ratios among the senses that approach the condition of consciousness."

On a psychological level, the idea of translating information into new modes seems to refer to our ability to put information into our own format. That is to say, we inherit information to transform it into pictures, sounds or feelings. This gives us a quality of understanding through our nervous system. It has been known that as information becomes more widely known, the knowledge gets chunked down to smaller and smaller bits of information where less needs to be conveyed to display the same knowledge. For instance, books do not need to be written on Einstein's theory of relativity, but the formula e=mc2 is enough to indicate what it is about. This type of communication is even more prevalent beginning in the early days of online chatting with symbolic gestures called "emoticons", and also acronyms such as 'lol' These acronyms are changing our communication of movement into a literary format. This might seem a backward revolution, but it is a translation of sending information globally - at least until on-site video-audio communication becomes readily available.

But as McLuhan would have it, we are continually externalizing our nervous system to the world population for all the world to connect with. We are all stars. Or as Aleister Crowley noted, "every man and every women is a star", which suggests, in McLuhaneque terms, each of our neurons have a pathway that is interconnected with the whole, and allows all pathways to exist independently and harmoniously. Our unified consciousness brought together is this "common sense" he mentions where translating information is brought outwards into a universal language.

There is a moment in this chapter that McLuhan uses simile as a means of gaining awareness of media in relation to another. He writes "As in all metaphors, there are complex ratios among four parts: "Your invitation is to ordinary invitations as ball games are to conventional social life." It is in this way that by seeing one set of relations through another set that we store and amplify our experience in such forms as money. " This seems to prelude his posthumous work 'The Global Village: Transformation of World Life and Media in the 21st Century', where McLuhan remarks on his tetrad as a device to "predict" the future of media. The pattern is: a) enhancement or amplification b) obsolescence; c) retrieval; d) reversal. He noted in this that there is the "ground" and the "figure", terms taken from Gestalt Psychology. The ground in this sense are the content while figure is the context, and both must be studied simultaneously, as the formula of the tetrad happen simultaneously and not in any order or chronology.

I do not feel my understanding of this chapter is as complete or integrated as the previous chapters. Although I feel I understand the basic element of translating, to place it in the larger context of his previous chapters are hard to place as a means of building from them. I can say that in this chapter he offers more hope for our current dilemma of being immersed in our electric environment by turning our unique perspective of the world into a synthetic, but tangibly adjustable world. By putting it into a means where others are able to share, modify, critique and participate together on the same plane while involving ourselves into a unified whole.
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Sabbatic Goat of Mendes
San Diego

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